My Shadow.

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One of my residents, Vera*, was laughing so hard that tears were brimming at the corners of her eyes. She dabbed them away with a tissue and tried hard not to continue laughing. 

“He’s following you around,” she said, pointing to the man behind me.

Charles* stood there quietly, not two feet away.

“Where are we going?” he asked in his usual soft tone.

Charles has recently begun following me around the dementia care community where I work. It’s not always just me: sometimes he’ll attach himself to other people who work there.

He can’t come with me everywhere, of course, so I often try to get him engaged in an activity or introduce him to another resident. Usually, other residents are happy to have a friend to walk with.

“I would ditch him, quick,” Vera whispered, smiling, dabbing at her eyes.

Sometimes people with dementia will “shadow” someone who they care about for a sense of comfort. Charles didn’t realize that his behavior was slightly disconcerting. In fact, he was most interested in where we were going next.

Most of all, he didn’t want to be alone.

Check out an article on Alzheimer’s Reading Room for more information.

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Rachael Wonderlin has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. She owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting company.

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